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Same-sex parents can’t be listed on child’s birth certificate, rules Arkansas Supreme Court

The justice cited 16 lines from a Bob Dylan song in his opinion.


Mehak Anwar


Posted on Dec 9, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 10:17 am CDT

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that only biological parents can be listed on a child’s birth certificate, even if the child has married, same-sex parents.

The court overruled Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s 2015 decision to allow same-sex couples to have both their names on a child’s birth certificate. In yesterday’s decision, Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote:

In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has. It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths…The difference between men and women in relation to the birth process is a real one, and the principle of equal protection does not forbid Congress to address the problem at hand in a manner specific to each gender. 

In a significantly less serious opinion, Chief Justice Howard W. Brill, who concurred in part and dissented in part actually cited Bob Dylan’s song “Times They Are A-Changin.’” He included 16 lines of the song at the beginning of his opinion and ended it with “The times indeed are a-changin’. All three branches of the government must change accordingly. It is time to heed the call.”

According to Arkansas Business, Cheryl Maples, who sued on behalf of three same-sex couples, hasn’t decided whether to pursue the case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In every state, it is required that when a married person gives birth, the person’s spouse must be listed as a parent on the birth certificate. But even in the wake of SCOTUS’s same-sex marriage decision, some states like Texas, Florida, and Nebraska have had a hard time adhering to this rule. 

In a 2015 press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the organization noted:

Not having a birth certificate listing both spouses is discriminatory, stigmatizing, and humiliating to these families, who deserve the same security and respect as the families of other married couples. It also prevents parents from taking care of their children’s everyday needs like obtaining healthcare, making medical decisions, signing up for daycare, and enrolling in government programs and benefits.  

The website, put together by notable LGBTQ organizations like the ACLU, Lambda Legal, HRC, and NLRC recommends that even if both names of same-sex parents are on a birth certificate, it’s worth getting an adoption or court judgment of parentage so the family is recognized as a family in every state.

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*First Published: Dec 9, 2016, 1:44 pm CST